The company was full to the brim with busy people. They fluttered across her in hurry, either clutching piles of papers and files or running to catch up to a meeting. She felt out of place and very alienated. It was her first day in the firm and she was nervous. She tightened her grip around her file and slowly approached the reception. A young woman was sitting at the desk, busy looking at her phone. She cleared her throat to get the woman’s attention but with no avail. The woman continued to ignore her for a good two minutes until she raised her head to look at her.
“Yes?” She snapped.
“Erm, it is my first day here and I would like to know where is the marketing department,” she asked.
“It is on the fourth floor,” she said. She chewed her gum obnoxiously and her jaws made a clicking noise.
“Thanks,” she said and left for the elevators.
When she reached the elevators, it was crowded. She sighed and chose to go to the stairs. By the time she reached the fourth floor, her face was covered with a thin layer of sweat and she was out of breath. She fished out some tissue paper, wiped off her sweat and tried to get her breath back before leaving for her office. She had to look for someone under the name Luke Hannington.
“Excuse me,” she asked a janitor who happened to be on the same floor. “Where can I find Mr. Luke Hannington?”
“There, ma’am,” he pointed to an office right at the corner of the hallway.
She walked towards the office and she could feel the tension building up in her. She was beyond nervous now because she was going to meet her boss. She knocked on the door three times and waited.
“Come in,” Luke called out.
She rested a shaking hand on the knob and hesitated. Was it the right job for her? Everyone warned her that this place treated employees horribly and the pay was even horrible. But she needed to gain experience before going to her dream company and the only people who accepted her was this company, Jaleeltech. She twisted the knob and entered Luke’s office.
“Assalamu Alykum,” she said and sat down.
“Welcome welcome,” Luke smiled. “How are you feeling, Miss Dalal?”
“Nervous,” Dalal said. “Really, really nervous.”
“You don’t have to be nervous,” he said. “You will be supervised the first two weeks by one of our finest employees! She will be like your shadow until you get the grasp of this job and company. We are delighted to have you here and honored to make you part of Jaleeltech! We are expecting some promising achievements from you Miss Dalal as your C.V says a lot about you. Now would you please follow me?”
He led Dalal to an open space with a huge window occupying a whole wall. The place had six big desks with sliding chairs in the middle, there were no partitions, on the side there were two desks with computers and printers and the other side had a data show, three bulletin boards and a snack bar.
“The way we operate here is different than other companies,” Luke explained. “We separate the employees to six group according to colours: Red, Blue, White, Black, Green, Purple. Each group has a specific task, one would do the advertisement, one would take care of networking, one promotion and so on. Every three months we switch tasks to keep things fresh. Our rules are simple: be creative. And of course the usual, traditional rules of workplaces which are respecting other, being punctual etc.”
He walked towards the table on the farthest left and stopped. “This is the White group. Dalal meet Muhsien, Pamela, Rawda, Joseph and Mubarak. This is the new member of your group, Dalal.”
“Hi,” they all said simultaneously.
“Rawda is going to be your supervisor,” Luke said. “Good luck.”
Dalal thanked Luke and joined her group. She sat and glanced around her absorbing her colleges’ features. Muhsien was a dark skinned bulky guy, with a bald head, rimmed glasses and an always smiling face. Pamela was fair, tall and skinny, her red hair pulled into a tight bun and she also wore glasses. Mubarak looked like a typical local guy, groomed beard, wearing a hamdaniya (turban) and a kandoora. He had thick eyebrows and deep set eyes. But the one who she least felt comfortable with was Rawda. She was wearing her shaila low, exposing her light brown bangs, an exquisite eyeliner was framing her green eyes, she had a very dark red lipstick, she wore an open abayaa in which the top half was beige and the bottom half was black. Her heels were made to stab someone, long, red pumps from Louboutin. Dalal wasn’t concerned with how Rawda looked like as much as the way Rawda was piercing her with glares.
“Well,” Rawda said. She had a high-pitched tone to her voice and that ticked off Dalal. She hated high pitched voices. “We are the top group, have been for months now and we don’t want to change that. So newbie, don’t ruin anything and do everything you are told to do.”
“Sure,” Dalal mumbled.
“Now,” Mubarak said. “We need to get sponsors for the Jaleeltech new advertisement. We are going to promote the new device called Ultrasound Veins. We have collaborated with a hospital to develop this device. But the expenses are too high to advertise this product without the help of sponsors.”
“I know—” Dalal started and was cut off by Rawda.
“We can talk to AE Media Centre about sponsoring us,” Rawda said. “They are always excited for Jaleeltech new projects.”
“Yes we can,” Pamela said. “But this year they apologised because they are working on one of the biggest projects for UAE. I tried talking them into sponsoring us but they refused this time.”
“Guys,” Dalal said. “I know this new emerging media company that needs this. They can sponsor us and they will benefit from it because we will be promoting them in a way. It is a win-win situation.”
“That’s a great idea!” Muhsien suddenly boomed.
“Okay,” Mubarak said. “Dalal you take care of that. Muhsien and I need to go and get some paperwork done. You are dismissed for today as we got nothing much to do.”
Dalal was so happy to be heard and to be given the responsibility of finding the sponsor. She opened up her laptop, looked for the email she got from that company and contacted them.
He was tired and he could feel his joints shaking with exhaustion. He just finished from three meetings, filed some papers and double checked balance sheets. He fell into his chair expatriated and rested his head. He was reeling, he felt dizzy and he needed to rest. He called his boss telling him that he needed to leave early for being tired and he was dismissed. He collected his papers, stuffed it in his bag, fixed his ghutra and took his car keys on the way out. He hated using the elevators and preferred the stairs. He walked down the stairs in haste, without checking if someone was going up or down or that someone was in his way.
Suddenly, he smacked into someone and he could hear a loud squeal and a thud. He got up in a rush to check on the person he bumped into. It was a young woman. He froze in his place.
“I am so sorry,” he stuttered. “Forgive me I didn’t see you.”
“It is okay,” She said. She got up, dusted off her abayaa and fixed her shaila.
He inhaled sharply. She was gorgeous. Big, dewy hazel eyes rimmed with thick lashes, pouty lips and smooth olive skin. She was short, too tiny for her age probably and she was petite. She bent down to pick up his ghutra and hand it to him but he beat her to it. He picked up his bag and gave her her handbag.
“Thank you,” she said shyly and left him standing in a daze.
He watched her leave and stayed planted in his place. Who was she?
She felt her face burn with embarrassment after the incident. She bumped into a complete stranger, a guy none the less! She cringed at the memory and went to look for the guy named Hamdan who was the chief accountant on this floor.
“Hello,” she said to a random employee. “Where is Mr. Hamdan?”
“Hamdan?” she said. “He left a few minutes ago. He is on a sick leave.”
“Is there anyone I can meet about the advertisement expenses of the new device?” Dalal asked.
“No,” she said. “I don’t think so. He has all the papers and I think he forgot to give them to someone before he left. Wait.”
She walked to her desk and fished out a card. “Here you go,” she said. “This is his contact information.”
“Thank you,” smiled Dalal.
A fever conquered him in the hours after he arrived home. He changed into something lighter and lied down on his bed and he was just beyond exhausted. His body ached every time he took a breath and his head felt like it was filled with cotton. His phone suddenly beeped. He groggily picked it up and checked the new email he received.
Dear Mr. Hamdan
I am emailing you concerning the advertisement of the new device, Ultrasound Veins. I would like to have a copy of the expenses as I am going to meet with the sponsors tomorrow. If you are not available tomorrow, please scan the papers and email them to me.
He groaned in annoyance as he remembered that he didn’t assign another accountant to be in charge of the expenses of the new project. He got up to fetch the papers and stood in front of his cabinet. The doors was engraved with long mirrors and he stared at himself. His black hair was damp with sweat. He had a long, slender face, with an unkempt stubble. His skin was pale and his most queer feature was his eyes. They were round shaped, black and slightly slanted. He had a broad chest and shoulders, he was tall, 175cm and he weighed 76kg.
He roughly took the papers and slammed them into the scanner. He finished scanning all the papers and emailed them to this Dalal person. Then he prayed and crashed into his bed for the night.
Her laptop shrieked indicating a new email has been received. She printed all the documents, stashed them in her file and went to sleep.
He heard loud, obnoxious and continuous knocks that woke him up in rage.
“WHO IS IT?” he screamed.
“So you still have the strength to scream at your old man,” his grandpa entered. “Last night I checked on you and you had a nasty fever. So I woke you up and gave you some Nadol.”
“Yadi (grandpa)!” He moaned. “You know I HATE Nadol!”
“I am no doctor,” his grandpa sat at the edge of his bed. “But I know that Nadol is good for the sick. How are you feeling?”
“Better,” Hamdan got up. “The fever is gone but I still feel like I am stuffed with cotton balls.”
“I will make you water with honey,” his grandpa said. “You will feel better. You should go to work.”
“Yadi,” Hamdan sighed. “I am sick, I took two days off.”
“Nonsense!” His grandpa bellowed. “You are a man!”
“DOESN’T MAKE ME ANY LESS HUMAN!” shouted Hamdan. “Yadi, I am TIRED!”
“No no,” he shook his head. “You need to go, I will make you a very healthy breakfast. You need to be disciplined about your work.”
Hamdan approached his grandpa cautiously and took his hands in his. “Grandpa, don’t worry. I wont be unemployed for skipping a few days. I am not like my late father, I am different. Besides, they wont let a tired man work. It won’t do them good. I will rest and then go.”
His grandpa scoffed and looked at Hamdan sideways. Hamdan smiled and tried to bat his eyelashes (and failed miserably) at him. “Oh well,” his grandpa said. “It will be fine. Now get up and go eat some healthy breakfast!”
“Did you talk to the sponsor?” Rawda said in her most high pitched voice.
A shiver went down Dalal’s back as Rawda placed a perfectly manicured hand on her shoulder.
“Yes,” Dalal gritted. “They agree to sponsor us. I sent everything to your office and emailed you about the whole meeting. Why are you asking me again?”
“Just to make sure you are caught up,” Rawda sneered.
Dalal ignored Rawda and went back to her work. She sent a thank you message for Hamdan’s cooperation and an email to the sponsor about the advertisement, meetings and appointments. She closed her laptop and gathered her things. For today, she felt accomplished. She did everything the way Jaleeltech (and Rawda) wanted.
Dalal decided to grab a meal at the cafeteria before heading back home. She checked her messages for if anyone was talking to her. She was immersed in reading a conversation when she heard a loud thud on the table.
“DALAL!” Rawda screamed.
“Y-yes,” Dalal was aghast.
“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?” Rawda hissed.
“I haven’t done anything!” Dalal stammered.
“You sent the wrong documents to the sponsor!” Rawda shouted. “How did you know we are financially tight on budgets this year?! Now they have figured out and they wont sign the contract with us!”
“What are you talking about?” Dalal said. “I sent them the documents of the expenses!”
“NO YOU HAVEN’T!” Rawda boomed. “You blew off the whole project! It is out that we are in a financial crisis!”
“I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG!” Dalal felt tears wet her cheeks. “These were the documents I got and I sent them!”
“You didn’t know they were the WRONG documents, missis?!” Rawda snapped.
“I am no accountant!” Dalal sand. “I didn’t know! Alright!”
“If you are here to destroy Jaleeltech,” Rawda said. “Then you are wrong and you will fail!”
“Rawda!” Dalal said. “I am not here to destroy anything! It was a mistake on my behalf—”
“AHA!” Rawda shouted. “So you confess you did this ON PURPOSE?”
“WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?” Dalal shouted.
This was the first time Dalal lost her cool in a public place. She was usually quiet and shy but if you had to work with Rawda, your inner dragon would burst out in the three seconds you have a conversation with her.
“YOU!” snapped Rawda. “You will pay for this, you just wait!”
Dalal fell into her chair and sobbed. She didn’t know she sent the wrong documents and she needed to find an answer to this problem. And no one else had the answer to this problem other than Hamdan.
His phone rang a few times and it was an unknown number. He contemplated on who would call him right now and no one came to mind. The unknown number called again and he resolved to reply.
“Hello,” he said.
“Assalamu Alykum,” a shaky voice replied.
“Wa Alykum Alsalam,” he said.
“Sorry to be bothering you but something happened,” she softly said.
“What is it?” he asked. A million thoughts came into his head, was she one of those girls he used to talk to when he was a very stupid college student? He felt dread looming in his stomach.
“I am Dalal from Jaleeltech,” she said. “Yesterday you sent me documents of the expenses.”
“Yes,” he said.
“They were the wrong documents,” she said.
Was she crying? he thought. “How so?”
“You sent me the documents of the company’s budgets,” she whispered.
“WHAT?” He jumped off his bed. “I SENT YOU WHAT?”
“The b-bug,” she sobbed.
“H-how?” he said running a nervous hand through his hair. “Please, stop crying and talk to me clearly.”
She explained to him the whole situation and the immense trouble he put her in.
“I am coming now,” he said. “Don’t go anywhere. And I will deal with this utterly annoying Rawda. Wait for me!”
She waited for amount half an hour before she saw him barging into the cafeteria. She gasped, it was the guy she bumped into her yesterday!
“Where is she?” he said angrily and stopped. It’s her! he thought to himself.
“She is upstairs probably talking to Luke to fire me,” Dalal said.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “Give me the contact information of your sponsor. I will solve this problem. You go home and rest. And I will talk to Luke.”
He took the contact information and left her.
2 Days Later
She sat by the window looking at the traffic and people. A few days back she faced a problem that nearly cost her job if it weren’t for Hamdan. Her heart skipped a beat at the mention of his name. He saved the company and her job and he was completely nice to her. Rawda has been stripped of her managerial position and replaced by Mubarak, who was a better and more tolerant manager than Rawda will ever be. They successfully finished filming the advertisement and they were now sending it out for the hospitals to see.
Every time she spotted Hamdan, her insides would melt, she would turn the darkest shade of red and would smile like an idiot. His bubbly laugh made her laugh, his exquisite eyes would make her heart speed up and his presence just lightened up her mood.
“You are taking too long,” he smirked.
“Me?” Dalal nearly spilled her coffee.
“Yes you,” he grabbed the cup.
“Are you talking to me?” Dalal stammered.
He laughed, “yes Dalal, I am talking to you.”
He said Dalal, she thought. Oh how Dalal on his lips sound so beautiful! Okay, enough Dalal, you sound like a dewy-eyed teenager who just fell in love. Am I?
“Hello,” he waved his hand in front of her face. “Earth to Dalal.”
“Oh,” she blinked. “Sorry!”
“Want to grab lunch together?c he smiled.
“Are you asking me out?” she gasped. “No! of course not! That is not appropria—”
“Chill!” he chuckled. “Here, in the cafeteria. No one would say anything.”
“Still,” Dalal whispered. “It will look weird.”
“Come on,” he said. “I just want to chat.”
After a few minutes of Hamdan nagging, she agreed. He got himself a beef sandwich with fires and soda and she got a spaghetti and orange juice.
“Well,” he said. “How’s work?”
“Good,” she said.
“How old are you?” he asked.
She looked away shyly before answering, “Twenty-one.”
“Oh,” he said. “That’s young. I am almost twenty-seven.”
“You are not that old yourself,” she said.
“What about your family?” he sounded intrigued.
“My parents live together and I have 2 older siblings, brothers,” she replied. “You?
“I live with grandpa,” he munched his sandwich. “My dad is local and my mother is Korean. My dad died in a car crash and my mother in labor. I am an only child and I have been living with my grandpa all my life.”
“Oh,” Dalal put her fork down. “I am sorry.”
“Don’t be,” he smiled.
They finished their meals in silence and left to their own work stations afterwards.
Dalal kept thinking of Hamdan the whole day. Every second of her time was dedicated to thinking of him and his life. She felt that she thought too much about Hamdan but he didn’t seem to want to leave her head.
Today, the company was almost empty. It was Christmas vacation and Dalal refused to spend it at home lounging. It was also an excuse to see Hamdan. After the meal they had together, she decided it was for best not to have a direct contact with him. He messed up her thoughts and she thought that it was better off without him yet she wanted to see him. Seeing him from far is fine, she said ti herself. I don’t have to speak to him at all. A few times he tried to have a proper conversation with her but she shot him down.
He didn’t know what was wrong with her. She wouldn’t chat with him and it pained him. He wanted to talk to her, he just couldn’t not talk to her. It was nearly 6pm when he found her sitting alone by the window. He approached her slowly.
“Hey,” he said softly.
She jumped in fright and looked at him. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to talk to you,” he said. “Did I do something wrong?”
“No,” she said. “But there are limits to contact between men and women and you know that.”
But I love your voice, he screamed on the inside. I love seeing you everyday, I love seeing your smile and hearing your soft little laughters.
“I am not trying to do something bad to you,” he said. “I just want to talk to you.”
“I won’t repeat myself,” she said.
“I am sorry if I hurt you,” he pleaded. “But please let me talk to you.”
“I can’t,” she muttered.
“But I love you,” he blurted out.
Her eyes widened in surprise. Did he just say he loved her?
“Hamdan,” she got up hastily. “I am sorry but I have to leave!”
“Wait, Dalal!” He ran after her. “Please!”
“I can’t,” tears ran down her cheeks and she refused to look back.
“WAIT!” He caught up to her. “Yes, yes I love you and I am ready to commit to you. LISTEN TO ME!”
She stopped but refused to look him in the eyes.
“Today,” he breathed. “I will go and ask for your hand. I can’t bare being not able to talk to you or be with you. So please, accept me. Please.”
A soft chuckle escaped her lips.
“What?” he said.
“You are an idiot,” she laughed. “But an idiot that I would love to accept.”